Minimum Requirement

The questionnaireI’m not a good Christian because I don’t __________________…

How would you finish that sentence?

Would it end with….

  • pray before meals?
  • go to Bible study?
  • read the Bible every day?
  • forgive others?
  • faithfully attend worship?
  • know all the books of the Bible?
  • know the names of all 12 Disciples?
  • know the difference between Real Presence, Transubstantiation, and Symbolic/Representation?

What are the minimum requirements to be considered a “good” Christian? At what point are we doing enough?

Is there a point where what we’ve done…isn’t enough…?

Let’s first talk crucifixion. Seriously.

Jesus is hanging on the cross with a thief on either side. In Luke 23:39-43, one of the thieves mocks Jesus, while the other thief asks Him to remember him once Jesus enters His kingdom. Jesus’ response is probably the most grace filled moment in all of Scripture and I simply LOVE how Wendy Blight describes this moment on page 15 of her book Living So That:

Jesus forgave the thief hanging on the cross beside Him and told him he would be with Him that day in paradise. It didn’t matter to Jesus what motivated this man’s confession. Jesus still forgave him. He forgave him knowing he would never study the Bible, never impact the kingdom, and never bring another to Christ.

Jesus didn’t ask the thief if he had been baptized. It didn’t matter to Jesus what his stance was on communion or what denomination he followed. Jesus didn’t quiz the thief on what he believed or had him recite a specific prayer.

Jesus heard this man’s confession of faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” v42. And that was that. Grace abounded and we’ll meet this man one day when we too are called home to heaven.

This is the epitome of “enough.” Yet…this thief did nothing.

What about for you and I? Do we receive the same kind of no-strings-attached-grace? Or are we held to a higher standard because we are followers of Christ?

The answer is yes.

Yes, we receive the exact same grace offered to the thief on the cross. Why?

Because you could quit your job right now, sell everything you own, move to Timbuktu, and become the next Mother Teresa and you still couldn’t do enough to earn heaven.

But that’s the beauty of grace. We are given the gift of heaven, even though we do not and cannot earn it. If we could earn our place in heaven…then it wouldn’t be called grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-9‬ NIV)

Though we cannot earn heaven…God expects us to act on our faith and that Truth is scattered all over Scripture, but is best summed up in the following verse.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NIV)

Of course, you can go deeper by reading any one of these passages: Exodus 20, Matthew 7:21-29, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 3:7-9, Galatians 5:13-26, James 1:19-27, and  James 2:14-26. Be sure to note an important fact…none of these passages concerning, good deeds give us admittance into heaven, these good works or deeds, are a reflection of our faith.

So, let’s go back to my earlier questions…

What are the minimum requirements to be considered a “good” Christian? and Is there a point where what we’ve done…isn’t enough…?

This is where we have to rely on some subtle semantics. I think the easiest way to do that is to break things down into eight True/False statements. You’ll want to read carefully…

1.      Praying does NOT get us into heaven. TRUE. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, then how do we ask for forgiveness? Don’t we have to ask for Jesus to live in our hearts so that we can go to heaven?”

The answer is simple, albeit, complicated and, God love me, very LCMSy. Stick with me anyway…

Let’s start with a simple truth: We can’t earn our forgiveness, so Jesus died on the cross for our sins and arose three days later. Romans 3:23-24

We are forgiven whether we ask for forgiveness or not!

It’s like being under water. Once I’m under…I can’t get any wetter the deeper I go. All I can do is get out of the water.

Looking at it another way, if I give you a gift with your name on the tag. The gift belongs to you, whatever is inside is already yours, all you can do is reject the gift.

You are currently living in a state of grace, as a forgiven child of God. Period. End of story. It’s that simple.

The only thing you can is REJECT the gift of grace. Your prayers have no affect on whether or not you are forgiven. See: Genesis 32:10, Psalm 130:3-4, and I Corinthians 6:9-11.

2.      We do not need to pray regularly. FALSE. See: Psalm 119:164, Luke 18:1, Philippians 4:6-7, and I Thessalonians 5:17.

3.      Studying the Bible will NOT get us into heaven. TRUE. See: Luke 23:39-43.

4.      We do not have to study God’s Word on a regular basis. FALSE. See: Psalm 119:10-11, Matthew 4:4, John 15:5, Hebrews 4:12, II Timothy 2:15, and II Timothy 3:16-17.

5.      Forgiving others does NOT get us into heaven. TRUE. See: Number 1.

6.      We do not have to forgive others. FALSE. See: Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 6:12, Matthew 18:21-22, Luke 17:3-4, Acts 7:59-60, and Ephesians 4:32.

7.      Attending worship regularly will NOT get us into heaven. TRUE. See: Matthew 7:21 and Matthew 23 (Pharisees seem to be the perfect example for all things hypocritical.)

8.      We do not need to worship regularly. FALSE. See: Exodus 20:8-11, Psalms 29:2, Psalms 150, John 4:21-24, Acts 2:42-47, and Philippians 2:9-11.

I have given you quite a bit to chew on and I applaud you if you read all of the verses listed (by the way…that was the short list…I have more…).

You may be wondering where that “Minimum Requirement” is that I was talking about earlier…well…I don’t have one for you.

That’s because there are no minimum requirements.

God doesn’t give us a list of the minimum requirements to be called His children. God already calls us His own, without action on our part. {John 3:16, Galatians 4:4-7, 1 John 3:1}

Yes, we have the Ten Commandments, but that is a guideline as to how we are to live as His children…not requirements to become His children. BIG difference.

Isn’t that INCREDIBLE??? The Lord of all, calls us His children…even before we were BORN!! We were forgiven before our first sin! And NOTHING will EVER separate us from His love! {Romans 8:31-39}

NOTHING

Nothing we do will make God hide His face from us or rescind His grace.

EVERYTHING

Everything we do is a response to God’s love and grace. My response will look differently than yours…

1.     I pray continually because I can’t help myself! It’s like talking with my hubby, I can’t go a day without talking with my Lord. It doesn’t matter if I’m praying before a meal, in a heap on the floor, or behind the wheel talking to God about my day. It’s not about the prayer at all. It’s about who I am conversing with.

2.     I read my Bible, focus on a verse, or do a devotion almost daily, not because I feel I must, but because I hunger for His Word. Sometimes it takes a matter of moments, other times I am desperate for a three hour feeding frenzy at my fave coffee shop! Whether you are with God for 3 minutes or 3 hours, God can do a powerful work in your heart. He is all about transforming you from the inside out.

3.     According this world, I have had every “right” not to forgive. But I also know the depth of forgiveness I have needed and God has not denied me that grace. It’s not in me to withhold forgiveness from others, I can’t wrap my head around the idea that people are able to hold onto unforgiveness and grudges.

4.     Worshiping God takes so many forms. I love gathering with my family at Our Savior to praise God together. I also love stopping my day and praising Him along with whatever worship song has popped up on my Pandora.

I don’t do all these things every day. And that’s ok…

Our faith cannot be boiled down into some sort of checklist. In fact, if our responses become a mere checklist, we need to check our heart.

The bottom line is this…

God has called us to be His own even before time began. He constantly seeks after our hearts, desiring to build a personal relationship with every one of His children.

How much God has invested in us, is evident in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.

How much we invest in our relationship with Him, is evident in how we live our lives for Him.


 

How do you invest in your relationship with Christ? Have things become a checklist for you? Or do you feel like the time you spend with Jesus simply comes from the natural flow of your day?

What will you do this weekend to spend time with God? Attend worship? Serve someone in need? Pray with a friend or family member? Read a devotion? Start a Bible study? Read a book of the Bible or start a reading plan? Read all the Bible verses listed above?

I would love to hear from you!Ephesians 2

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2 thoughts on “Minimum Requirement

  1. Wow! This is deep and rich, Heather. I am truly in awe of how much material is presented here. I wish I had time to dig into it all now. Thank you, thank you for sharing this beautiful, grace-filled (yet very practical) message with us today.

    Is this what you wrote on the day we talked via Facetime? 🙂

    Blessings,

    me

    Like

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